Apart from the team plane crashing and killing the whole organization, the 2021 Patriots season couldn't have ended any worse.
I haven't been writing a lot lately, so that might be a little extreme, but after winning seven straight games to get to 9-4 and hold the AFC's #1 seed before the bye week, the Patriots went 1-3 to end the 2021 regular season with their lone win coming against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
During that 1-3 stretch, New England played the Bills the day after Christmas and didn't force a single punt in a 33-21 loss, sadly foreshadowing their disgusting performance in the Wild Card Round. The Pats lost their first post-Brady era playoff game 47-17 in Buffalo, and it wasn't even as close as the score would indicate. 27-3 at the half, with the Patriots scoring their first points in the closing seconds. Kendrick Bourne scored a meaningless TD (except for my friend who took Pats +36.5 live) in the final minutes to cut the gap to 30. The Patriots 2nd rated defense (in points allowed) didn't force a single Bills punt (again) in the contest.
Despite that bleak paragraph, the Patriots have plenty to build off this season. Mac Jones played well, earning a 9th alternate Pro Bowl appearance. They got a project offensive lineman in the first round of the draft and are paying more than any other team in the league for an average (at best) pass-catching unit!
FYI: this blog is gonna feature a lot of Warren Sharp tweets
I respect Bill Belichick. He's one of, if not THE greatest coach in NFL history. I think he's the best, but I'm biased as a Patriots fan. You gotta give Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown their due. Who knows what Lombardi would've done in Washington had he not been too manly to get a rectal examination and caught his cancer earlier?
Belichick has been in the NFL since 1975. His resume speaks for itself. Six Super Bowl wins as a Head Coach and two more as the Defensive Coordinator for the Big Blue Wrecking Crew Giants. I'm not going to act like I know football better than Belichick just because I'm nearly 70 games above .500 in Madden 22 online. That would be fucking stupid, but the game eventually passes everybody by; Tom Landry held on for a few years too long. The same could probably be said for Chuck Noll. Paul Brown was too much of a dictator to succeed in the changing 60s, which led to his dismissal from the team he helped create.
But just because Belichick is one of the most accomplished people ever to hold his job title doesn't mean he's immune to criticism. There are some glaring mistakes during his two-decade-plus tenure. Super Bowl LII comes to mind immediately, but he's made some trades that make the Mookie Betts deal look favorable for the Sox. WR is probably one of the easiest positions to evaluate and he couldn't find a stud with a Zircon WireWarning e50.
Admittedly, I haven't paid super close attention to what's going on in camp, but I don't get wtf the Patriots are doing with this no coordinator; let's not put a label on it bullshit like some annoying 19-year-old couple.
I will gladly concede that Bill Belichick is a greater football mind than me. He's been coaching in the NFL since Elvis was alive, but based on the things I've seen on Twitter from Patriots camp, this whole no Offensive Coordinator thing *NoHo Hank voice* is not going super well.
Like I said, heavy Warren Sharp blog, but he really just did all the legwork for me curating all these tweets from Pats' beats guys.
Whenever you hear NFL talking heads talk QBs, one of the biggest buzzwords (or I guess phrases) is the "second year jump." The big leap players take from rookie to NFL sophomores. It's still super early in the year, but so far the Patriots offense is on the road to nowhere.
Call me crazy, but a lack of consistency and chain of command might have something to do with a "perpetually overwhelmed" offense?
I wish I could think of more specific examples right now, but one QB that comes to mind with stunted development is Alex Smith. Until 2011, he looked like the next Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, etc....a fucking bust. His numbers were awful, he was never able to have any consistency since the 49ers had a different offensive coordinator every year from 2005-2008 (Smith missed the entire 08 season, but the 49ers had 5 OCs from 05-10).
Then Jim Harbaugh shows up, Alex Smith has a career year, looks great in 2012 until losing his job via injury to Kaepernick at the height of the read-option phase of the NFL. Then in KC, under Andy Reid, has like five solid years. Look at his numbers with more consistent coaching.
Based on that example and plenty more escaping me now, I don't understand how not having an Offensive Coordinator is a good thing for a 2nd year-developing quarterback. I know it's too late, but I'm warning you now if the Pats go 6-11 and Mac regresses...remember how they entered the season.
Hey, let's mix in a non-football example about consistency!
I went to four different middle schools in four years. Surely, that fucked up my development as a student and human being. I think about that constantly. I missed out on certain things academically because the curriculums didn't align. I went to 5th grade and the first two months of 6th grade in a public RI school with a robotics department. Then I spent the rest of 6th grade in a private Christian school (my first exposure to cults) in Jacksonville, FL, only to go to a public school in Jax named after a Confederate Leader for 7th grade and back to RI for 8th grade. I don't need to pick that scab right now, but let's just say experiencing that during your formative years isn't what God intended.
Sure, Belichick could prove us wrong as he has before and show how much smarter he is than the rest of the league with this "innovative thinking," but do we actually think OC by committee is the best thing for Mac Jones? Especially with these people making up the committee! Joe Judge was the 2nd biggest disaster to hit New York in the 21st century.
Matt Stafford as soon as he left Detroit and Matt Patricia (who technically got fired during the 2020 season).
Look, I love the Pats, but even before all this offensive uncertainty, I didn't love their chances to make it back to the playoffs in 2022. The AFC is loaded. I could see the whole AFC West making the playoffs. It wouldn't shock me if the North produced multiple playoff teams. Everybody knows how high I am on the Colts. The Bills, Dolphins, and Jets all improved.
Meanwhile, the Patriots lost JC Jackson and Shaq Mason and replaced Josh McDaniels with nobody. I would love to be wrong and see Mac soar in his second season, but as of now, I think we're in store for a sophomore slump. Maybe they can fix the kinks, but to say it for the 47th time, I don't believe this is a bright idea for a 2nd year QB coming off of an impressive rookie campaign.